Chess - Further notes

Wiki Chess_in_early_literature queen-and-bishop

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Chess Pronunciation in Europe, Middle East, India

French Échecs (Ess-shek) Play Italian Scacchi (Scar-kee) Play German Schach (Shah) Play Spanish Ajedrez (Ah-khed-rez from "al-shatranj") Play Arabic, Persian, Hindi شطرنج (Shat-rang) Play Probably derived from an early game in India Chatur-anga which translates to the “four arms” (of attack and defence) i.e. War elephants (or bishops), Cavalry (or knights), Chariots (rooks), and Infantry (pawns). Adopted in Europe via Persia, Arabia, Spain. Click here for full list of names, including chess pieces


The king was originally known as the Shah, which became the name of the game in Persia (and Arabia)


The queen was originally the counsellor or prime minister or vizier (Sanskrit mantri, Persian farzīn, Arabic firzān, firz or wazīr). The wazīr changed into the queen over time. The first surviving mention of this piece as a queen or similar was "regina" in the Einsiedeln Poem, written in Latin around 997 and preserved in a monastery at Einsiedeln in Switzerland. Initially, its only move was one square diagonally. Around 1300, its abilities were enhanced to allow it to jump two squares diagonally (onto a same-colored square) for its first move. During the 15th century, the queen's move took its modern form as a combination of the move of the rook and the current move of the bishop. Starting from Spain (famously around the time of Queen Isabella of Castile), this new version – called "queen's chess" (in Italian, scacchi della donna) or, pejoratively, "madwoman's chess" (scacchi alla rabiosa) – spread throughout Europe rapidly during 1475 - 1525, partly due to the advent of the printing press and the popularity of new books on chess. The new rules faced a backlash in some quarters, ranging from anxiety over a powerful female warrior figure to frank abuse against women in general. In England William Caxton published his book The Game and Playe of the Chesse in 1475.


A bishop used to be “alfil” that is an armed attendant who sat on the back of a “war elephant”. However, elephants were not known in Central Europe, so they could not recognize the figure. It was known as the aufin (judges or heralds) in French, or the aufin, alphin, or archer in early English. In the Saga of Earl Mágus, which was written in Iceland somewhere between 1300–1325, it is described how an emperor was checkmated by a bishop ("biskup"). The first known written example in English dates to 1560s. While the idea of a warrior bishop was not universal, having a bishop in the chess army might have seemed more natural in medieval times than it does in modern consideration. In feudal society, bishops often had political power and were part of the medieval nobility. In France the groove was taken to be a jester's cap, hence in France the bishop is called "fou", the "jester". In Germany, the bishop is a "Läufer" (runner or courier) and in Italy an "alfiere" (standard-bearer). Originally a bishop could leap two squares along any diagonal, no more than 8 squares, and could jump over an intervening piece. And no fil could attack another. Its current moves developed at the time of the queen's extended powers.

Rook or Castle

Chariots, called a Rukh (Rook) in Arabic, were drawn by strong horses with a mounted hull or turret for its rider (called a castle in English). Castling Castling has its roots in the king's leap as early as the 1200s, with many variations throughout Europe and North Africa. The current version of castling was established in France in 1620 and in England in 1640.


The notion of the pawn as a “foot soldier” is fairly consistent throughout the history of chess, with the Indo-European root for “foot” echoing all the way from the original Sanskrit padati, via the Latin pedester to modern French pion (and imported into modern Turkish as piyon) and English pawn.


Knight, Spanish caballo, French cavalier, Italian Cavallo, German Springer. The English word "knight" was adopted on the chess board in the mid 1400s. In the Middle Ages, he was a man who served his sovereign or lord as a mounted soldier in armour, also a man raised by a sovereign to honourable military rank after service as a page and squire. The word "Page" is perhaps ultimately from Greek paidion "boy, lad," diminutive of pais (genitive paidos) or perhaps simply "boy from the rural regions" (see pagan). "Knight" is from Old English cniht "boy, youth; servant, attendant". Squire is a shortened version of the word esquire, from the Old French escuier (modern French écuyer), itself derived from the Late Latin scutarius ("shield bearer"). HISTORICAL meaning of knight (in English) a gentleman representing a shire or county in Parliament. noun: knight of the shire; plural noun: knights of the shire LITERARY meaning a man devoted to the service of a woman or a cause. "in all your quarrels I will be your knight" (in ancient Rome) a member of the class of equites. (in ancient Greece) a citizen of the second class in Athens, called hippeus in Greek. (in the UK) From the 1300s a man awarded a non-hereditary title by the sovereign in recognition of merit or service and entitled to use the honorific ‘Sir’ in front of his name.

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